Jalan Raya Pos Jalan Daendels or The Great Post Road

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This is about genocide. “Jalan Raya Pos Jalan Daendels or The Great Post Road” is about the construction of the 1000 km Great Post Road, a monumental project in Indonesia’s history that came at a great cost: the sacrifice of approximately 12,000 Indonesian lives. Through personal anecdotes and historical context, Pramoedya Ananta Toer navigates readers across the captivating landscapes of Indonesia, offering insights into the cultural tapestry of the region.

The 1000 km Great Post Road was built only in a year, with a sacrifice of many Indonesian lives. The estimation is around 12,000 lives – but this is a crude number and without proper investigation.

Review of Jalan Raya Pos Jalan Daendels or The Great Post Road

As a child, I attend an Indonesian school and we are all familiar with HW Daendels, known for his cruelty and another famous genocide – the Cultuurstelsel system. Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s “The Great Post Road” serves as a poignant reminder of this dark chapter in history, shedding light on the human cost of progress and infrastructure development.

Through this book, Pram takes us on a journey across the most beautiful island in the world, from Anyer to Panarukan. To soften the genocide part, he added personal stories on some of the cities he passed or had spent time in his youth.  To give an illustration, this is the Great Post Road route:

Peta Anyer Panarukan

I, myself, went on a road trip from Jakarta to Banyuwangi back in 2008. I passed along the same route, the same area, cities, and towns, with some exception of the modern toll road. Navigating through this road is not easy but not that hard either. Gas stations are plenty along the way, but the road is packed with big trucks which can make your trip challenging.

Having traveled along a similar route myself, I found Pramoedya’s descriptions to be both vivid and evocative. From bustling cities to remote towns, each stop along the journey reveals layers of history and tradition. Through Pramoedya’s lens, readers gain a deeper understanding of the social and cultural dynamics that shape Indonesia’s identity.

Passing by the small towns will give you knowledge about the people and their culture, also the main produce of the land. I would say it doesn’t change much from Pram’s description. You could sense if you already left the western part and goes into Central Java, even to the eastern part. I recognize this change from the small things, people behavior and language along the street. I could also sense in some area (Cirebon for example), the people are harsher, tougher. History gave them reasons to be tough.

Reading this book takes me back to that road trip: eating various ‘soto’ along the way, a broke down car in Paiton, and riding along the beaches of northern Java.

In a satirical way, Pram had wrapped up a great history lesson for us.

Conclusion of Jalan Raya Pos Jalan Daendels or The Great Post Road

Overall, “Jalan Raya Pos Jalan Daendels or The Great Post Road” offers a compelling blend of history, travelogue, and personal reflection. While it confronts the grim realities of genocide and colonial oppression, it also celebrates the resilience and spirit of the Indonesian people. Pramoedya’s narrative serves as a poignant tribute to the complexities of Indonesian history and the enduring human spirit.


4 out of 5 stars

To read more of our reviews, click here.

Author: Mia

A writer and researcher who also a tech-addict and internet-junkie. Loves quirky stuff.

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